Notes from The Book of Trespass

p. 36 In the REformation, maths was God, and those who held the numbers held the land. Land owernship itself became a profession and supported a raft of other jobs – lawyers, surveyors, estate agents – each generating reams of paperwork to prove their own viability .. The fence lines that were rolled out across England were the manifestation of lines of legal prose, and each justified the other. .. what lay inside them was partitioned from the web of social ties and responsibilities to the communities that surrounded them and became abstracted into commodity alone – something to be bought and sold on the market. There was pushback both in governemnt and Church. In 1601, Edward Glascock rebuked Robery Johhnson, MP for Monmouth and a professional survetor, saying ‘I think the gentleman that last spake hath better Skill in Measuring of Land than Men’s Consciences.” The necessary displacement of people from within the fences, and their subsequent estrranement from the wealth of the land, was decried as an immoral act.”

p. 52 “The original meaning of the word acre was ‘open country, untenanted land’, but by Gainsborough’s time it had come to refer to an exact measurement of land, standardised across the country to facilitate valuations and sales… In feudal times, property meant rights in a piece of land, referring to the customs of permissibile actions and their reciprocal duties. Medieval lawyers never spoke of owning land, but, rather, of holding the land … yours to use, according to local custom, and to the ecology of what each particular site had to offer.”

p. 112 “In 1607 in what came to be known as the Midland Revolt, there were 11 uprisings, each with thousands of people, protesting the severe enclouse of the Midlands… Their communcal cornfields had been hedged and stripped to provide pasture for the sheep. The rent on their properties had spiked and their common rights, collecting wood for winter, allowing their pids and cows to fatten on the pasture had been removed. With nowhere else to go, many were now squatting on the side of the fields they had lived on a decdade earlier. In an enquiry in the August following the revolt, royal commissioners had investigated the scale of illegal enclosure and depopulation in Rockingham Forest alone: 27,000 acres had been enclosed, 350 farms descryed and almost 150,000 people across 18 villages gad lost their homes.”

p. 117 “a line written over a miillennium ago by a poet soldier, keeping watch at an outpost on China’s Great Wall: The long wall is propped up on yellow sands and whitened bones/We have inscribed our achievements on the mountains of Mongolia,/But the land lies deserted, the moon shines for no one.”

p. 137 “Across England the wealth of the sugar plantations was being injected into English society, into buildings and infrastructure… until only recently the exact nature of this wealth and its effect on British landscape and society was locked away in the National Archives. But in 2009 a team of processors from UCL, led by Dr Catherine Hall, began a vast project mnapping the Legacies of Britain’s Slave Ownership … p. 140 when slavery was finally abolished in 1833, the slavers received a total of £20 million from the British taxpayer, estimated as anything bvetween £87 billion and £500 billion in today’s money. The slaves, of course, received nothing, and as part of the deal had to stay exactly where they were and work unpaid ‘apprenticeships’ for four years after their supposed release.”

p. 146 “When the East India established their first outpost in Calcutta, India’s share of the world economy was 27%… It was famed for its textiles, its architecture, its shipbuilding, its spices… In 1930, historian Will Durrant published The Case for India, in which he decribes the Company’s methods as a ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India;. England was teh tick on the udder of the world’s cash cow, sucking up all it could get, inflating itself in direct proportion to what it took. .. The railways that Briatin ‘gave’ India were not the standard history book definition of gifted infrastructure,. but in fact intravenous tubes lodged deep inside the body,k transfusing the blood as efficiently as possible fromn the heart of India to England.”

p. 151 When the British left India they had drained its GDP from 27% to 3%. It is estimated that up to 29 million Indians died of famine, murder and organised genocide under the colonial regime.”

p. 187 At Grow Heathrow and reflecting on Greenham “Foucault had a word for spaces such as these. He called them heterotopias – spaces of outsiders forged deep inside society, spaces that reflect the orthodoxy of that society by arranging themselves differently. These spaces are distinct from utopias in that they are real, they actually exist, and they manifest their ideologies in real space. Someone has done the plumbing, set up the solar panels, dug the long-drop toilet. They work; there are alternatives. This is a message that the Fathers find profoundly threatening.”

p. 193 In 1985, the then secretary of state Michael Heseltine introduced new by-laws for Greenham Commmon that upgraded the trespass into the camp to a criminal charge… Hansard recorded a total of 812 trespasses in the first 15 months from January 1987, each breack calculated to expose the flaws not just in the fence , but the legal systemns that supported it. And it worked. After a four-year legal battle, the courts ruled that Heseltine had pushed aside a legal constraint in his quest to end the protest – he had acted ultra vires, beyond his powers, or more literally, beyond his manhood. In 1992 the courts ruled that the fence itself had not been erected under ministerial consent and Judge Lait ruled “the perimeter fence at RAF Greenham Common was unlawful at all relevant times.” The fence was the crime, not the crossing of it.”

p. 204 “when William invaded England, the 4,000 or so thegns were wiped from power and replaced by 180 of William’s closest mercenary allies, the barons. A new hierarchy of French nouncs was imposed: the barons, then the cisounts, the marquises and the dukes. The only remaining Germanic title was earl, which was kept to divert the crass minds of the English … “It is a likely speculation that the Norman French title ‘count’ was abandoned in England in favour of the Germanic earl … precisley because of the uncomfortable phonetic proximity to cunt.”

p. 211 “at the start of the 18th century, fuelled by the civil unrest of commoners across Hampshire and Berkshire, the silence of poaching transformed into a brash, violent protest for equal rights. In broad daylight, hordes of men and women would corss the fences, on horseback or on foot, and devastate the deer stock of local manor parks, taking some home, but leaving, like foxes in the henhouse, most of the carcasses strewn in blood on the plains … because many smudged their faces with charcoal, they were known as ‘the Blacks’. .. The Black Act of 1723 introduced 50 new capital offences across the land… the Black were labelled a national emergency… They were described as Jacobites, terrorists cells seeking to topple the king. The Act was suppposed to be a temporary measure, but lasted for another century.”

p. 213 “I am reminded of philosopher Edmund Burke’s definition of the aristocracy. “To be bred in a place of estimation; to see bothing low and sordid from one’s infancy … to stand upon such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the widespread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be ebaled to draw on the attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found … these are the circumstances of men that form what I call a natural aristocracy, without which there is no nation”.

p. 218 “Today, a third of Britain is still owned by the aristocracy. The 24 remaining non-royal dukes own almost 4 million acres between them. There are 191 earls, 115 viscounts and 435 barons, and most are still significant landowners. In 2016 the 14 marquises recived just over £3.5 million worth of farm subsidies for the 100,000 acres while 17 of the dukes who receibved farm subsidies got £8.4 million etween them.”

p. 265 “The Hobhouse report of 1947 proposed a fundamental change to the access laws of the countryside – it envisaged a full right to roam over all uncultivated land in England, so that people could actually experience the land for which they had fought. It was proposed as a corollary to the NHS, providing health and recreation, the prevention of illness before the need for a cure. But landowners… lobbied hard against this proposal, and so when the Bill was trnasitioned into law, a full right to roam was demmed a step too far. The compromise that followed was called the National Parks Act, and though it was still hailed as a people’s charter it was in fact a major success for the landowning establishment.”

p. 278 “In 1989 the philosopher Edward Soja publiched the first in a series of books and essays that advanced the concept of Henri Lefebvre’s Third Space.. a conversation between ideology and architecture open to all who inhabit it. It is both imagined and real, both abstract and concrete, and builds a space where the borders of society can be constantly challenged… groups who are marginalised by the ideologies imposed by place can interact on an equal footing with the centres of power that created them… an area of “radical openness, a context from which to build communities of resistance and renewal that cross the boundaries and double-cross the binaries of race, genmder, class and all oppressively Othering categories”. … not imposed from above, but created from within. Its central concept is its lipperiness, its opennes to change, the permeability of its borders of definition. It is in constant flux, an ‘open-ended set of defining moments’.It is a theme picked up by bell hooks in her book Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural politics, where she talks of ‘heterotopic marginality’ as a place, and mindset, of resistance against unequal power distribution.”

p. 298 “Free festivals, organic gatherings of people on common land, have always been a threat to the status quo. But organised, sanctioned festivals, the bread and circuses of ancient Rome, were seen as a way of allowing people to vent their frustrations in a manner contained by local authorities. An article from the London Magazine in 1738 sums up this paternalism neatly: “Dancing on the Green at Wakes and merry Tides should not only be indulg’d but incourag’d: and little Prizes being alloted for the Maids who excel in a Jig or a Hornpip would make them return to their daily Labour with a light Heart and a grateful Obedience to their Superiors’.”

p. 299 “the final nail in the coffin for freedom in the ocuntryside was the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994. Like the Tudor and Georgian Vagrancty Acts, it targeted specific types of people, grouped them together and defined them as a threat to the state. It outlawed alternative lifestyles and ideologies, by removing people’s rights to express them in real space… Its trigger was trhe largest rave in English history, on Castlemorton Common, but it sroots stretched back into the early 1980s, to Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to obliterate what she called the ‘permissive society’ to a long-established battleground in the fight for space: Stonehenge.”

p. 307 “river and their banks are subject to a category of legislation called Riparian Rights. While the Crown is said to own the water that flows through a river, the landowner holds the rights to the riverbank which extends across its bed towards an imaginary line drawn halfway through the river. To kayak or swijm along a stretch of river, you much have permission from each and every one of the porperty owners on the banks, meaning the long stretch of open water is actually (or rather legally) divided up into an invisible grid of lines, each under the control of the lord of trhat section of land.”

p. 320 In France, you can walk into any town hall and request to see the maps of ownership for that part of the country. In the US, Montana’s land registry is online for all to access. New Zealand opened up its land registry in 2015, and now has a minister for Land Information… the resistance to opening up the Land Registry continues to this day, because when you put up a fence around land it becomes your business and yours alone.”

p. 372 “When Cotland introduced its first Land Reform Act in 2003, it also introduced the right of a commujnity to buy land as a cooperative. Now, almost 20 years later, nearly 500 community bodies own more than 500,000 acres in common.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.